The delivery of verdicts and sentencing in the Steubenville, OH teen rape case this week has created a wide range of responses. Sadly, many have chosen to focus on the rapists and their potential futures rather than on the crimes and the victim. Fortunately, officials with the power to make a real difference in this case are taking it seriously indeed, perhaps no-one more so than Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The first-term Republican has been extremely vocal about the circumstances of the crime and the way it has been handled from beginning to end. His office is pursuing charges against the owners of the house where the initial assault took place; he is also investigating possible charges against the football coach and school officials who may have known about the crime but remained silent to protect the school’s football season. (How disgusting is THAT? Talk about institutionalized misogyny.) Under Ohio law, school employees are mandatory reporters and could face stiff penalties for inaction.
Working with local law enforcement, DeWine and his staff are also cracking down on the people who have harassed the victim of the crime. The case is a sad example of blaming the victim, and many teens and parents threatened her for coming forward. Steubenville police have arrested two girls for their actions against the victim after the case went to court. DeWine stands behind the actions and makes his position clear.
These arrests, I hope, will end the harassment of the victim. We are simply not going to tolerate this. Enough is enough.
Too often cases lack strong follow-up. Thank you, AG DeWine for helping this case be a model exception.
Honorable mention this week comes thanks to my friend Matthew Johnson. He pointed me to a powerful post by punk music legend Henry Rollins regarding the Steubenville case. Always articulate and outspoken, Rollins’ whole post is worth reading. His observations about gender, power, and the messages we send our children are powerful. His recommendations are a perfect expression of social justice.
I think to a great degree, we humans still divide ourselves into two species, even though we are monotypic. There are males and females. We see them as different and not equal. Things get better when women get more equality. […] It is obvious that the two offenders saw the victim as some one that could be treated as a thing. This is not about sex, it is about power and control. […]
So, how do you fix that? I’m just shooting rubber bands at the night sky but here are a few ideas: Put women’s studies in high school the curriculum from war heroes to politicians, writers, speakers, activists, revolutionaries and let young people understand that women have been kicking ass in high threat conditions for ages and they are worthy of respect. Total sex ed in school. Learn how it all works. Learn what the definition of statutory rape is and that it is rape, that date rape is rape, that rape is rape.
Thank you, Mr. Rollins. Well said!